Fighting talk: Anthony Joshua is the hunter, not the hunted as public perception goes full circle

Anthony Joshua has gone from ridiculed to revered - and he hasn’t even had to lace up the gloves.

By Liam Kennedy
Friday, 10 May, 2019, 11:58
Anthony Joshua celebrates defeating Alexander Povetkin by Knockout at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 22, 2018. See PA story BOXING London. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire

The Watford-born unified world heavyweight champion has long been criticised for ‘avoiding’ the big fights - god how I hate that term.

But, finally, a trip across the pond, and some questionable decisions from his main rivals has finally brought the truth to the fore.

Joshua is the hunter, not the hunted.

Critics, most of whom reside in the US, have always backed their man - Deontay Wilder - against the upstart from the GB Olympic set-up.

Joshua, like Wilder, came late to the boxing game, both men have worked hard to reach the pinnacle of the largest, bomb-laden, dangerous division on the planet. Both hold world titles - Joshua three, Wilder one.

But recent events shine a far better light on Joshua, given dog’s abuse in the US at times in the not-too-distant past, than they do Wilder - and you’d think the boot would be on the other foot, given that AJ almost saw his American dream go up in smoke due to Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller’s penchant for all things pharmaceutical.

While Joshua has been telling everyone he will fight Tyson Fury, Wilder and others, including former drug cheat Luis Ortiz, very few people seemed to hear him. They are listening loud and clear now.

Wilder’s team played a savvy game when they tried to catch out-of-shape, out-of-mind Fury - their fighter did not deliver, though.

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This turned out not to be the fight many thought would continue to pad out the record, it was the Bronze Bomber, Tuscaloosa and Alabama’s finest’s worst nightmare. He got a draw from the judges. Those who saw it, know the real result.

Wilder’s reputation dented, his PR machine continued to go into overdrive - but this time people did not believe as they did before.

More offers from Eddie Hearn to fight and more rebuttals from Wilder’s team. The worm was turning, public perception began to switch.

And this week it became clear that Wilder has already promised fights to his next two opponents - ruling out an undisputed fight, for all the straps, until at least 2021. The public on both sides of the pond have finally seen the light.

I’ve no doubt Wilder wants the fight, why wouldn’t he? That’s just what he does.

But his team, sadly, do not. America waited a long time for a credible, marketable heavyweight, in their marquee division - and it appears as though the people around the fighter are not keen to give that up in a hurry. It is us, the boxing fans, who are robbed of the kind of spectacle sport is all about.

Joshua’s time will come - and when it does, even the most staunch non-believers will be converted. The WBC champion can’t run forever.